Dior Dune eau de toilette

Dune is clearly enjoying a revival of sorts among perfumistas, what with all the fresh reviews of this 1991 release popping up on perfume blogs all over the place. And deservedly so, I might add.

I had never worn Dune and had only the most loose memory of it, having smelled it only on other people, and then infrequently. My sister A wore it; at the time, she was in college and I didn’t see her often. I remember giving her a hug when she was home for a visit, noting that she smelled nice. I asked if she had a new perfume. “It’s called Dune,” she told me. “And don’t ask to borrow it. It’s mine. Don’t go buying it, because I chose it, and it’s mine.”

(You’d think that I’d stolen her sweaters when we were teenagers!  But no. She’s four years younger, and we have wildly differing taste in music, clothes, and fragrance. Why she was so adamant about not sharing, I still have no idea. She was similarly possessive about her Coco Mademoiselle a few years ago.)

My sister-in-law E – mother of Curiosity and Primrose, if you were wondering – had worn Dune as well, but had given it up due to fragrance sensitivities of a close friend. A few years ago I gave her a mini I’d picked up for her, but I didn’t open it to smell because the box was sealed. So I still didn’t remember what Dune smelled like.

After reading Victoria’s review at Bois de Jasmin and Angela’s review at Now Smell This, and seeing all the “I love Dune!” comments on those reviews, I decided to go smell it. I couldn’t find a tester at my local mall, so I went to my old standby eBay and bought a spray mini bottle of eau de toilette, figuring that E would like to have it if I hated it myself. I do not know how old this bottle is, but I am beginning to suspect that it might be an older one, since apparently the purse-size 7.5ml spray is no longer made, and because the bottle itself has a lovely iridescent sheen that I haven’t seen on currently-available bottles. I’ve heard that Dune has been reformulated (what hasn’t?), but I’m not sure when, and the consensus seems to be that the current juice is very wearable, not ruined at all. It was once available in parfum, but now only in edt.

Dune was composed by a team: Jean-Louis Sieuzac, Dominique Ropion, and Nejla Bsiri-Barbir. (I have quite good luck with Ropion fragrances, I notice: Aimez-Moi, Alien, Ysatis, Jungle L’Elephant, and of course the masterpiece Carnal Flower. Sieuzac, not-so-much; he was responsible for the Great Evil, Opium. But I forgive him.) Dune’s notes list (via Fragrantica) is of considerable length. Topnotes: aldehydes, bergamot, mandarin, palisander. Heartnotes: broom, wallflower, lily, peony, rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang. Basenotes: lichen, amber, moss, musk, patchouli, benzoin, sandalwood, vanilla.

When it arrived, I promptly lost the package and didn’t find it for two weeks (grrr, I have Too Much Stuff!), but upon finally locating it, ripped it open and sprayed right on skin, forget paper. It smelled, whaddya know, familiar – not in an immediately-placeable way (“Dune!!”), or in the time-dislocation manner of Proust’s madeleines, but in a way that made me say to myself, “Oh. Oh, yes. I remember smelling this.”

Dune seems to me to have one foot in the 1980s and one in the 1990s: despite its jam-packed notes list and its complexity of smell (very ’80s perfumery), and despite its utter dissimilarity to light, citrusy-aquatic, “clean” scents like contemporaries cKOne and L’eau d’Issey, it smells very cohesive, all of one piece, almost what I think of as being a “spa” sort of fragrance. Olfactory Zen meditation, if you will.  And it is strikingly strange, particularly for being a mainstream fragrance you can find in a department store.

What I smell first in Dune is lavender. It smells just fine, but I am peculiarly sensitive to linalool, as it is prone to giving me monstrous headaches. I suffer a good bit through the opening. In actuality, there is no lavender in the notes list – but palisander, or rosewood, as I found out while reviewing Abdes Salaam Attar Rosewood for the O Tannenbaum joint blog project in December, contains strong aspects of linalool, so I’m certain that’s what’s causing my headache. (God forbid I spray it on fabric ever again, as the resulting headache lasted not thirty minutes, but a full four hours, coming on immediately upon sniffing my scarf and staying until I finally gave up and took two ibuprofen tablets. And washed the scarf. Twice. By the way, don’t spray it on anything you don’t want stained. It doesn’t show on my russet paisley scarf, but Dune does have a light amber color. Consider yourself warned.)

There are also some aldehydes up top, and I get a quick whiff of them as they whoosh by. After that aromatic baseball-bat-to-the-head, Dune settles down fairly quickly, with quiet, blended florals that seem not fresh, but pressed in the old book you were reading on the beach the other day: identifiably rose petals and ylang and jasmine, and a note of great floral sweetness that could be either the broom or the wallflower (since I’ve not smelled either in a garden). In amongst the flowers are a few grains of sand, and the salty air seems to have gotten into the pages of the book, so that it smells salty as well as of woody vanilla. Eventually, Dune pulls up a soft, powdery base that could be sweeter than it is, since it is primarily a sandalwood-vanilla-amber thing that could crumble like chalk in your fingers, with a little bit of moss and patchouli to keep it from going all gooey sweet. Powder-haters are probably not going to enjoy Dune; again, consider yourself warned.

The whole experience is seamless, a gradual arc big as the horizon at the beach. Dune doesn’t smell like a beach, especially not the white-sand, big-waves, bikini-babe type of beach. It does evoke a beach for me, through its dryness and vague salty air, its indistinct florals and its woody, chalky texture. It’s a winter beach, maybe, and the wearer is all alone on it, indulging in a luxurious, peaceful solitude. Many of the reviews I’ve read mention that it does seem to have a color, and I agree: it is a peachy-sandy amber color, warm but dry, clean but not antiseptic.

Perfumes: The Guide gives Dune five stars, describing it as “fresh oriental,” “Bleakest Beauty in all of perfumery,” and “unsmiling from top to bottom… drained of life, flesh-toned in the creepy way of artificial limbs, not real ones. Marvelous.” (If anyone here is once again questioning Luca Turin’s sanity, I concur. “Flesh-toned creepy” is marvelous? Holy moly.) This review also mentions the “anisic carrot-seed top notes” and “inedible cheap-chocolate drydown,” neither of which I really get out of Dune, although what little patchouli I notice is indeed that powdery-earthy-cocoa I normally hate. It doesn’t bother me here.

Dune is aligned, in my mind, with Jacomo Silences, as being a perfectly meditative fragrance, the kind of thing I find best worn for thinking in silence. Silences has color for me as well: silvery green, with ribbons of pink and pale purple. Dune, of course, is an oriental rather than a green floral, but Turin and other reviewers are right: it is never cloying or too loud, and it does carry a feeling of freshness all the way down to that powdery-soft base.

Dune has that magical quality of smelling absolutely distinctive, like nothing else, and being cohesive top to bottom. I enjoy it very much. It’s interesting that such an unusual fragrance, not immediately “pretty” or uncomplicated, is still popular and selling well. (However, I think E will wind up with this bottle after all, in keeping with my new policy of passing on bottles I don’t love.) 

Other reviews of Dune:   March at Perfume Posse, Grain de Musc, Perfume  Shrine, Erin at NST.  Know of any other reviews I’ve missed?  Please share.  Top image, the Dune ad that seems most evocative of the scent to me, is via Perfume Shrine, bottle image via Fragrantica. 


16 thoughts on “Dior Dune eau de toilette”

  1. I thought about wearing Dune the other day but never did so perhaps this weekend. I’ve never noticed the beach vibe but with this review in mind I’m hoping I do. Mr. Hulot’s Holiday is the one scent that really reminds me of a winter walk on the beach. I prefer warmer beach walks myself but don’t mind the SCENT of a cooler one!

    1. Funny, I’m not much of a beach person at all, although I like swimming in the ocean. And staring at it, which might be why I like Dune… all that tranquillity.

  2. Wonderful review, Mals. I was prompted by the recent love to test this too, and liked it enough to put it on my list for a larger sample or mini when I’ve worked through some of the untested samples in my stash. Your review just confirms this is something I might enjoy long-term, and I know exactly what you mean about it being poised between the 80s and 90s. Great description of how it manages to be both.

  3. After all the rave reviews I was curious but doubtful: fresh oriental, from Dior? Dior who? fresh and oriental?
    One day, during my lunch-break, I entered a store and asked for the fragrance, which was carefully hidden in the male section.
    And if you ask me, that’s where it belongs. It starts fougère-ish. It is beautiful and seamless, and like you say, cohesive. I like it. But its fougère-ish and stays quite so, even as the gorgeous base comes through. Like if they put a pair of mustaches on the girl in the ad. Adieu dune. It was not meant to be.

    1. Hidden in the masculine section? Arrgh. Did they have Dune pour Homme as well?

      I almost said that it starts out fougere-ish. Which I HATE on myself, by the way, and it’s probably why I don’t love Dune though I find it appealing. But once that lavender bit has passed, I don’t get a fougere/shaving cream element, and I am able to tolerate it from half-hour in through drydown.

    1. I hope you can find a sample – I think it’s very worth trying. Winter beaches are peaceful, aren’t they? (Unless there’s a storm, I guess.)

  4. I like Dune quite a bit. My best friend in college had a bottle and I thought it was so lovely and classy. I went to her wedding last year and she now denies ever having worn it. Vehemently. She says it’s her mother’s perfume… I don’t know what to make of it, but it makes me a little sad.

    1. Huh. Memory disconnect… Wonder if she had a bad experience wearing it and has decided to disavow all knowledge of it, or something like that.

      But yes, classy.

  5. It does seem to be hot on everyone’s list again these days…and I’ve never smelled it. I feel way behind. I’ve got a fire under me now to go find a sample. Does anyone dislike Dune? And if so, why?

    1. I don’t know about anyone commenting here – but I did go hit up the fragrance forums (Makeup Alley, Basenotes, Fragrantica) to see how the reviews ran over there. By my count, they’re roughly 80% positive, 15% meh, and 5% hate, and the haters either mention “old-fashioned” or “powder bomb.” I do agree that you have to have at least a tolerance for powder, but that’s a pretty solid percentage of positive reviews.

      Anybody else want to weigh in on this.

  6. I had two hilarious twitter conversations about both Dior Dune and the film Dune. One person was talking about the perfume and the other the film!

    I LOATHED Dune when it came out. It made me feel sick, like Youth Dew does to you. I finally got around to sniffing it a couple of weeks ago, and either Dune has changed or I have. It’s not bad at all! I don’t think I could wear it, but who knows – I didn’t try it on skin!

    1. Oh, that IS hilarious! I loved the books, found the movie high on the cheese factor. (I mean, Kyle McLachlan is hot, but he’s floundering around in a gooey cheese landscape… deeply flawed film.)

      I don’t think Dune’s changed all that much – though I’m sure it’s been thinned to some degree. That may make a difference. And I will say that I did NOT like it on fabric, where on skin it was fine. Wonder if you were subject to forced proximity to someone who had OVER-overapplied it? I think that may have been the case with me and YD/Opium. Boy, those early hatreds stick around, don’t they? I did resniff YD last summer, just to see if my nose had matured some: Nope. Still hate it.

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